Despite off-field issues, Big Ben back in big game 

It’s not as if nothing happened. The suspension was imposed, for a reason which if it doesn’t beg the truth is hardly specific.

Ben Roethlisberger missed the first month of the season for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy.

That was the precise explanation about the charges from an alleged sexual assault on an allegedly drunk underage co-ed in the bathroom of a Georgia nightclub. Now, after his return, after sitting out the Pittsburgh Steelers’ opening four games, Roethlisberger and the Steelers have returned to the Super Bowl.

The presumption was Roethlisberger would be hit by prickly legitimate questions the usual football media was too tame to ask, but no one in this week leading up to Sunday’s Super Bowl XLV against Green Bay was willing to challenge Big Ben, who cleverly became Gentle Ben.

“I want to be a guy people look up to,” said Roethlisberger, in a pre-emptive strike. “I know it takes time to get that back.”

Interpret the comment as you choose, that Roethlisberger understands our skepticism, that Roethlisberger seeks our forgiveness, that Roethlisberger realizes through fate, favoritism or a sharp attorney his career has been altered only slightly.

“You’ve got to fight through a lot of things in life,” he said, an oblique reference to the penalty he received. Roethlisberger never was prosecuted over what was a second set of allegations against him.

“Every day you wake up, there’s always challenges. Everyone has different challenges, whether it’s illness, family issues, whatever. You’ve got to keep plugging along.”

He has done exactly that, helping the Steelers to their third Super Bowl in six seasons. He’s known for slipping tackles. And slipping other items.

“That’s a reflective question,” he said when asked how he is perceived. “This is not the time for reflection.”

Fans often judge athletes on performance, not morals. A good guy might be someone who abuses his girlfriend, but hits a game-winning home run in the World Series. A bad guy could be a wide-open player who drops a pass in the Super Bowl.

Asked if the charges from March and suspension had changed him, Roethlisberger said, “Just being calmer ... I mean as tough as this could be, I was going to bring a Twix bar and if I needed a minute after I got [a] tough question, [open it up]. But I still enjoyed the questions.”

About The Author

Art Spander

Art Spander

Art Spander has been covering Bay Area sports since 1965 and also writes on and Email him at
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